Day 11: September 14, 2014

Start (approx.): 6:30 am               Camp (approx.): 9:40 pm

4000 footers climbed: Madison (2 pm), Adams (4:35 pm), Jefferson (6:35 pm)

Miles hiked: 14.1 + 1 mile the wrong way

In the morning I discover that I had set my alarm for 5 pm and not 5 am when I wake up surprised to see it’s already 6 am! Today is going to have some rough terrain so I really wanted that extra hour. Ugh!

At least the last bit to the road is easy and then we have several miles of easy road walking to the Dolly Cop campground. Rich arranges for a shuttle to pick him up and reunite him with his truck and I head off in search of the Daniel Webster Scout trail. I don’t know much about this trail but remember reading notes that it was okay. I ask the older lady at the campground and she just repeats what she has been told by forest service. “It’s a difficult trail only to be attempted by experienced hikers”.  Well, at least it’s well marked and there are even some bathrooms near the trailhead. I meet two other hikers going up but they get started before me so I don’t see them again until they come back down near the top. A little ways up I get passed by a runner with trekking poles, you don’t see that too often.

The trail is actually really nice and gradual until it pops out of the woods and enters a big boulder section. The weather today is awesome. A bit chilly but sunny. This makes me so happy. I stash my poles and enjoy the boulder challenge. The first part isn’t marked very well. Some of the painted blazes have worn of a bit and the cairns don’t start til a bit further up. I just go in the direction of least resistance and find the pale blazes. Just below me I see a hiker with a dog who either can’t find the trail or decides the dog can’t do it because I don’t see him come up any further. The views from the boulder field are pretty good, I can see the Carters are still covered in fog and I’m glad I’m no longer there.

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More scrambling brings me to Madison where the wind makes it pretty chilly, it’s time to put some layers back on. Monkey Miles is having a tough time when he sees some of the cairns with rime ice. This is bringing back memories from the time he got stuck on Eisenhower in the winter and had to wait for rescue. In the meantime his left cheek got covered in rime ice. The poor fella.

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I can definitely tell that it’s a weekend and I’m in a popular area. There are lots of hiker here today. I stop in at the hut to get some water and when I exit I stupidly follow the sign that says Mt. Adams. I don’t remember this pretty lake from the last time I climbed Adams but my memory isn’t always the best so I continue on a bit. Somehow this trail doesn’t look as well travelled as I’m expecting it to be and when I look up I see this super steep trail which looks very unfamiliar. I finally pull out the map and realize I took the wrong trail. I now have the choice to continue on this trail or backtrack to the trail I wanted which I think would be easier. It feels like a waste of time but I decide to backtrack the 1/2 mile (or however far I got). I ask another hiker and he says the Star lake trail I’m currently on is pretty rough, he agrees that backtracking may be the better option. Grumble grumble. Well, at least I got a pretty picture out of it.

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I eventually get on the Gulfside trail and take the .6 mile rocky trail to the summit. I run into the hiker who took my photo at Madison and he went up the Star Lake trail and he tells me that the last part of that trail was almost technical bouldering. He makes me feel much better about abandoning that route. I move along quickly in the direction of Jefferson. This rocky terrain is slow enough as it is I can’t really linger. I can’t believe my husband enjoys doing double trans prezzi traverses. Going over this crap twice in one day? Why? ; )

Well, maybe because the views can be spectacular!

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I do linger a bit on Jefferson, I have to take some time to eat after all, and the views are simply amazing. I feel like I’m on top of Mt. Everest with the sea of clouds below me. Wow!

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I’m a little apprehensive about still being above tree line when it gets dark so I’m trying to move along but the sunset with the clouds is just so amazing I’m having trouble tearing myself away from it. Just one more picture…

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This is another trail I haven’t hiked before and it’s definitely a bit of a challenge to follow when the clouds rise up at the same time as it’s getting darker. I’m following cairns but when it gets completely dark and I’m in the fog I have to go back and forth a few times to find the marked route. At this point the ‘trail’ is actually a rock scramble with some short but steep sections of solid rock wall. I’m sure that during the day with a small pack this can be fun. I change the batteries in my headlamp to have the best view possible. At some point I drop my pack to scout out the route and only see the yellow blaze when I go back up towards my pack. I retrieve the pack and go down until I find another tricky section. It looks like the rock is worn from people hiking on it and I think I need to get down from this ledge. Okay, here I go! I grab onto a rock and put my feet on a small ledge. And then the unthinkable happens. My hand slips and my pack pulls me off the ledge. I’m falling backwards… All I can think is ‘Oh nooooo!’.

Luckily the very thing that pulled me backwards also breaks my fall. I fell a few feet down but land on the pack. I have to take it off to be able to get up. I’m definitely shook up, that could have been so bad! I feel incredibly lucky and stupid at the same time. What the hell was I thinking? I could have been dead!

I just sit there for a moment and wonder what to do. There really is no place to camp here and I really want to be done with this hike tomorrow but I do think about staying put for a moment. Then I pull myself together and find the route again. From then on I buttslide everything rocky. My long johns are torn to shreds by the end of it but I don’t care. I just want to get down safely.

I’m so relieved when I finally make it below tree line but I’m very tired. All the plans I had about road walking several miles tonight are gone. I just want to lay down. I make it to the trailhead and crawl under some trees. Enough for today.

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